“And who is my neighbor?”
- Luke 10:29
Two weeks ago, there was a deadly crash on the I-15 between Victorville and
. The crash
involved two big rigs, and two men were killed. But one of the men who died in
the crash wasn’t in either of the trucks. He was a man named Michael Keyser,
who stopped to help the driver of the first truck and was killed when the
second big rig collided with the first. It wasn’t the first time Keyser had
risked his own life to save someone else. In 1992, he received a hero’s
citation for pulling an injured driver out of a burning vehicle. In last week’s
Daily Press article, a man who knew Keyser described him as a true hero: “His
life was taken doing what he did best: Saving lives of people he didn’t know.” Barstow
Keyser was the definition of a Good Samaritan – a phrase that comes straight out of one of Jesus Christ’s most famous parables, told in Luke 10:25-37. You probably know the story well. A man who was traveling alone on a dangerous road was attacked by robbers, beaten and left for dead at the side of the road. Afterward two separate men, a priest and a Levite, came down the road and saw him lying there. But instead of helping him, each man scooted to the other side of the road and kept walking. But when a lowly Samaritan came by, he treated the man’s wounds, then put the man on his own donkey, took him to the nearest inn and paid the innkeeper to take care of him for as long as needed.
Jesus shared the story of the Good Samaritan in a conversation with an “expert in the law.” This so-called “expert” was a Jewish scribe and lawyer who basically asked, "When I am obeying the second greatest command in the Bible, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,' who exactly is my neighbor?” Evidently the legal eagle thought that Jesus was going to say that his neighbor was the guy who lived next door in his upper-middle-class neighborhood or his fellow Jewish leader at the synagogue. Never in a million years would he have imagined that Jesus would single out a half-dead mugging victim as his neighbor. But that’s exactly what Jesus did in the story of the Good Samaritan. On the road to
that day, the Good Samaritan was the
ONLY man who had enough compassion to stop and help the half-dead stranger.
Therefore, on the road to Jericho
that day, the Good Samaritan was the only one who truly obeyed the second
greatest command in all of Scripture: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. And
Jesus ended the parable by telling the Jewish leader to “Go and do likewise.” Jericho
If you and I are going to follow the example of the Good Samaritan by “going and doing likewise," then we have to ask ourselves the right questions. For a follower of Jesus Christ, the first “right” question is not: “If I stop to help this person, what will happen to ME?” The right question is: “If I do not stop to help this person, what will happen to HIM?” We’ll never know this side of heaven why the priest and the Levite refused to stop and help the half-dead stranger. Maybe they were running late for an appointment. Maybe they didn’t want to become ceremonially unclean by touching a dying body. Maybe they were scared of getting mugged themselves. But this we do know: They were focused on themselves.
Jesus wanted the Jewish lawyer to know, as he wants you and me to know: When someone around us is hurting and needs us, there is no excuse for being self-centered. There is no reason to respond in any way other than compassionate love. When someone needs our help, that’s not the time to ask, “If I stop to help this person, what will happen to me?” It’s the time to ask, “If I do not stop to help this person, what will happen to him?” That’s the question Michael Keyser asked when he stopped to help the driver of that big rig.
The second “right” question is equally important: Do I view this hurting person in front of me as a nuisance to avoid or as a neighbor to love and help? Let’s face it: Hurting people are needy, inconvenient, and they sap our time, energy and money. But Jesus calls his followers to love and help them anyway.
Unlike the case of Michael Keyser, loving your neighbor most likely won’t cost you your life. But even if it does, Jesus calls you and me to count the cost and take up our crosses every day and follow him anyway. Regardless of the cost, Jesus Christ calls us to love our neighbors. He has shined the spotlight on a good and compassionate man who put the needs of others above his own needs. And Jesus says to you and me, “Go and do likewise.”
Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for our worship service Sundays at 10 a.m. at the new Dr. Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.